Thirty-one years ago, this magazine pioneered the city magazine “Best Of” staple. The brainchild of editors Alan Halpern and Maury Levy, the May 1974 issue was the best-selling in Philly Mag history. Beginning then and there, the annual Best Of issue sat on coffee tables throughout the region — year-round. It became the road map for how to navigate the city.
I know, because it was on my coffee table as I was growing up. When Philly Mag bestowed a “Best Of” on a cheesesteak or a restaurant or a shop, it meant something. It was the closest our town came to having a widely understood seal of approval.
Now, 31 years later, we still take the Best Of brand seriously, even as we update it for our times. You’ll notice a lot of new stuff this year. We’ve got more winners and categories than ever. And we’ve decided to be even more relevant; we’ve added a “Help” section to make your life easier — by highlighting handymen (remember them?), furniture repairers who make house calls, and people who will clean out the junk in your basement. What’s more, because the city isn’t the center of all of our lives every day, we’ve included more regional winners than ever.
Also for the first time, in partnership with CBS 3, we’ve recognized a Best Philadelphian. We did this because our chronicle of the best of this region has to be more than simply a compendium of where to eat and what to buy. It should also touch on what moves us. We’re an emotional city. (That’s what all the booing and self-hatred is about. Duh.) So, as Vicki Glembocki points out on page 144, we were touched by little Alex Scott and her dream to raise money for cancer research by selling lemonade, and now we’re inspired by her parents, who have refused to let the dream die with their daughter.
Finally, one thing hasn’t changed in Best Of’s more than three decades: this magazine’s commitment to editorial independence. Yes, our list is totally subjective. But — contrary to widespread belief — it is never influenced by who advertises, or doesn’t. That cynical perception is one of our great frustrations. I still get inundated with calls from advertisers wanting to know why they weren’t recognized. I tell them what I tell you: Our opinions aren’t for sale, and we call them like we see them, in a media universe where straight-shooting is in short supply. As Halpern and Levy did three decades ago, we let things fall where they may.
In the magazine business, there is an age-old argument between writers and editors. Writers want more space; editors look to restrain the wordsmith’s more florid tendencies. I’ve now been on both sides of the divide. We’ve had one such tussle here of late, and I’m hoping you can weigh in on the matter. On page 116, check out Bruce Buschel’s wondrous piece, “The Ghosts of Broad Street.” Buschel — a Philly Mag staffer back in the ’70s — is a brilliant writer, and his walk down our most iconic street is at once moving and entertaining. Alas, he wanted more space. As in, twice as much space. As in, 12,000 words.
So we’re running a condensed version of Bruce’s article here—at a still-hefty 6,000 words—and we’ve put the full version up at our website, phillymag.com. Do me a favor, if you’re so inclined and have a spare, I don’t know, six or seven hours: Read them both, and let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org) if I erred in not running all of Bruce’s ruminations in the pages of the magazine. He’s a terrific writer, so I’m guessing it’s worth your time.